First up - EGYPT
Yesterday saw Hosni Mubarak step down after 30 years of dictatorial rule as Egypt's president. It was the outcome that so many Egyptians had been bravely pursuing over the last few weeks. In a movement that mirrored in so many ways the revolution in Tunisia that preceded it, a huge proportion of the population rose up against a regime which had become synonymous with corruption, unemployment, brutality, repression and nepotism. The revolution was organised to a large degree on the internet, through facebook and twitter and has been a wonderfully powerful example of the innate power and potential within any populace. I'll leave the description of the actual day to a journalism much more capable of explaining this momentous day, Robert Fisk, a reporter for the Independent who lives in the Middle East (in Lebanon) and knows an awful lot more about the situation than i do - http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/robert-fisk-a-tyrants-exit-a-nations-joy-2212487.html . I really hope the Egyptian people get the government their revolutionary efforts have deserved. I'm trying to ignore my natural cynicism about revolutions, hoping that the lessons of history prove irrelevant and that the removal of Mubarak doesn't simply lead to another dictator or a permanent military leadership. For now though i'm just happy that Mubarak is gone, that the passion, and in a tragic number of cases, lives of the Egyptians that took part in this revolution has not been in vain and that it is yet another example of people refusing to settle for the government they have.
Secondly - The Fighter
Saw this film on Wednesday and i have to say i was VERY impressed. I'm not the biggest fan of sports films in general, and find boxing films even less appealing normally as i've never been able to muster any passion for that particular sport. I have a lot of respect for it, it's incredibly tactical, it requires a level of physical fitness few sports demand and it has the potential to be incredibly dramatic. Saying all that though, i've never really connected with it. I've watched several boxing matches and though as i said i respect the endeavour, i don't really enjoy it.
The Fighter however is an excellent sports movie and a superb boxing movie. For once the challenge facing the 'hero' (Micky) isn't his own demons, but the demon's of the people around him, especially his mother and his former boxer brother (Dicky). The family dynamics were portrayed brilliantly, the dilemma of having to balance your own interests and your family's hopes perfectly displayed. It also taps into that staple of American cinema, the fear of being trapped into a particular future. As fears go it's up there with the fear of terrorists and the fear of a liberal social agenda for many Americans.
The script is good, the shooting is excellent (mixing standard cinematic techniques with documentary film making and elements of sports camera work) but it is the central performances that make this film superb. Though the entire cast is great, the film relies on 4 performances in particular to achieve the quality this film offers.
Bale (Dicky) will get many of the headlines and the awards for his portrayal of a man whose potential was destroyed by addiction and weak will power. From the moment he first appears on screen, shockingly thin and bursting with nervous energy, it is obvious that this is a long way away from the Batman performances that offer very little for him to work with. He is brilliant throughout, capturing a whole rang of conflicting emotions and motivations with all the subtlety of a truly great actor, which perhaps he is, time will tell.
Equally important are the performances of Amy Adams and Melissa Leo. Adams plays Micky's romantic interest and is a wonderfully atypical romantic lead. She's powerful, spirited and gets some of the best lines in the entire film. The scenes involving her and Micky's objectionable sisters (there's a lot of them) are some of the funniest, filled with tension and brilliant put downs. Leo is superb as Micky's mother, playing a deliberately dislikeable role excellently. She could in many ways be considered to be the villain of the piece (don't worry, this isn't a spoiler of any value) yet the performance has enough complexity that i never dismissed her as without redemption despite her manipulative role throughout.
It may lack the drama of the aforementioned three, but Wahlberg's performance as Micky, the boxer at the centre of this tale, is superb. He ties the whole plot together, offering a stable yet intriguing centre to the chaotic relationships around him. The film wouldn't work without that performance, it would feel like a collection of caricatures, yet it will not gain any awards most likely and will get little critical recognition. It is like the classic comedy scenario, the funny man wouldn't be anywhere near as amusing without the straight man to play off, in the same way none of the other performances would reach the heights they do without Wahlberg's influence. As with any good sports movie, you are rooting for him throughout, but there is an impressive depth to his character that i feel set this apart from the majority of sports movies.
Thirdly - Music
This bit is just a selection of recommendations. A collection of bands and artists that i consider worth a listen. There's an old favourite who i always try to champion, Frank Hamilton, who plays superb acoustic folk music with lyrics that capture a very English sense of romance. There's Hannah Trigwell, an acoustic singer from Leeds with huge potential who i hope gets the recognition her talent deserves. The new White Lies album is excellent, capturing the epic quality and catchy hooks that the first album delivered while moving on enough to be praise worthy in it's own respect. I've really been enjoying the new Boxer Rebellion album as well, subtle and in places atmospheric, yet with an extremely enjoyable eye for a tune. The last one i'm going to mention in this post is the Cee Lo Green album, that man has the voice of a god and an ability to create a song that you don't even mind getting stuck in your head.
Finally - Football
I'm starting to get properly nervous about the Forest v QPR match. Any game away at the league leaders is a big one, but especially as all the teams around us managed to win today it puts more pressure on us. If i'm being honest i'd take a defeat tomorrow if we could win the 3 after as i feel they're going to be more important in the grand scheme of things. I don't really mind whether we win the league, so long as we go up automatically. As with any Forest fan i really don't want to go through the play offs, they are a simply evil creation. I'm going to the home match against Preston on the 22nd and can't wait, i've well and truly caught the football bug again in the last few months (see an earlier post if you want to read more about my susceptibility to that particular illness).
I watched the Manchester derby today and though it didn't entirely live up to the hype, as games between the big teams in the Premiership go it was pretty entertaining. As much as i'd like to believe otherwise for entertainments sake, i can't see anyone catching Man U now, they're winning regardless of whether they play well and that, as anyone, especially pundits, will tell you repeatedly, is the mark of champions. I'd love it if Arsenal could catch them, i like Wenger and it'd just make a nice change from either Man U or Chelsea winning the league but i can't really see it. At the other end of the league, despite their inspirational comeback i can't see West Ham staying up this year, which is a shame as i have a definite soft spot for them. My tips for the Premiership would be:
1. Manchester United
3. Manchester City
18. West Brom
20. West Ham
I refuse to make any predictions about the Championship as it has a habit of making anyone who dares to do so look very foolish.
So yeah, this was a random collection of some of the things that have been interesting me this week, i hope it made some vague sense.